Chester homeless charity CATH expands team amid growing demand for services

Chester Aid to the Homeless (CATH) is now expanding its team following a long-term rebuilding process and amid growing demand for its services.

CATH went from an annual income of £1.1m and 30-plus employees to an annual income of £250,000 and just eight employees “almost overnight”.

Through a series of cost savings and the support of Chester-based Mitchell Charlesworth financial advisors, CATH is not only heading for a surplus this year – it is also expanding its team.

CATH Charity  

 L to R: Mitchell Charlesworth's Partner Marlon Armstrong, Julia Davies, Robert Bisset, Reg Bolton

CATH’s welcome return to financial stability has enabled it to employ experienced accommodation support officer Julia Davies.

CATH CEO Robert Bisset said Julia’s appointment has given the community charity increased impetus at a time when the demand for services is likely to rise.

“Government funding cuts are starting to filter through to local authorities and there is already a lot of competition for accommodation in Chester – a small university city with high rents. There is no chance of homelessness going down in the foreseeable future so we are re-focusing on our core offering – accommodation with support – to help the people who slip through the cracks.”

CATH’s finance director, Reg Bolton, said the help and support provided by Mitchell Charlesworth continues to play a key role.

“One of the consequences of the funding loss in 2012 was that we could no longer employ a part-time chartered accountant as our finance manager,” he said. “So Marlon Armstrong, a partner at Mitchell Charlesworth, organised a six hours per fortnight support package to replace our book-keeper. Not only has this service cost less than the previous part-time book-keeper, but the overall quality and accuracy of the work has immeasurably improved.

“About a year ago we also encountered a serious problem with our accounting software. I spoke with Marlon and he immediately arranged for Mitchell Charlesworth to resolve the issue. I know that I can phone, email or drop into the Mitchell Charlesworth office in St Nicholas Street whenever I need support with CATH’s finances and always get fast an efficient guidance.”

CATH, established in 1972, offers homeless people routes into accommodation. The charity developed rapidly from the 1990s onwards and, despite the loss of council funding in 2012, remains a key city centre provision for homeless people in the area.

Mr Armstrong said Mitchell Charleworth’s Chester office works with around a dozen charities and benefits from a firm understanding of the unique pressures and demands on the sector.

“CATH was in a real hole when it lost the council funding but the charity had to find a way to continue,” he said. “It was a traumatic time for everyone involved but we were determined to stand by CATH and support them as we had always done.

“Due to our close relationship with CATH and knowledge of the sector, we were able to deliver a support package to ensure the charity could continue to operate and rebuild during an extremely difficult time.

“At Mitchell Charlesworth it is fundamental to our outlook to invest time in our clients, to get to know them and understand their specific financial needs – this personal touch is what makes us different.”

Mitchell Charlesworth is one of the largest chartered accountancy and business advice practices in the North West. As well as working with charities, it works with a diverse range of clients in the legal, education, manufacturing, hotel and leisure, medical and social housing sectors.

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